Judge holds keys to Haverford School's season
Posted Thursday, August 28, 2008 by Haverford Football
|H.S. Football 2008: Judge holds keys to Haverford School's season
|By: Christopher A. Vito , firstname.lastname@example.org
|HAVERFORD - In the gymnasium that the wrestling team usually inhabits, there are dozens of air mattresses spread out across the floor. That doesn't cut it for Dan Judge, who brings his own mattress - minus the boxspring and frame - from home.
"I carry it up the stairs over my head, all the way in," the Haverford School senior quarterback said. "It kind of makes me feel like I'm at home."
For the first five days of football camp, Fords coach Michael Murphy and his players make that vacant gym their temporary home. It's where they spend their nights, and it's not too far from where they eat their meals and lace up their spikes. Murphy's unofficial motto, at least for the last three summers, has been: To play as a team, they have to stay as a team.
The Inter-Academic League keeps its teams from practicing for the first two weeks of August, so Murphy's housing experiment has evolved into a mid-month crash-course on building chemistry and developing camaraderie that will last the duration of the season.
The fourth-year coach has seen it all: upperclassmen and underclassmen mingling on and off the field, the sophomores sitting down to dinner with the seniors.
It has its drawbacks, too. "When the lights go out, all of the guys start shouting and stuff," said senior running back Kevin Eberly. "Sometimes, after three-a-days, it's hard to get some sleep."
Judge and Eberly, third-year starters under Murphy, represent two of the Fords' 15 returning starters. The seniors said Murphy's modified sleeopover (and how the players have taken to it) speaks to the commitment level of the team. So did the attendance at optional offseason weight room sessions. "In the past, football has taken a backseat to other sports because we weren't winning," Judge said. "I think we can change that this season."
There's a talented cast behind Judge to make sure that happens. The Fords, who went 4-7 last year and 1-4 in their league, have nowhere to go but up. Eberly, who rushed for 222 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries in 2007, leads a veteran offensive attack. Terance Fitzsimmons, who churned out 555 yards rushing and six touchdowns last year, is back to improve on those totals. On the receiving end, Judge projects his wideout corps as one of the best in the Inter-Ac. AJ Jones (seven receptions, 51 yards) and Joe Nassib (seven receptions, 72 yards), who played behind upperclassmen a year ago, will get their chances. Tight end Joe McCarthy, who hauled in six passes for 126 yards, could be one of the quarterback's top targets.
For as talented as his triple-option offense is, Murphy likes his defense that much more.
Lineman Rob Boyle returns into the Haverford School fold following a one-year sabbatical when he played for District One Class AAAA champ Ridley. His 6-4, 230-pound frame is a welcome addition to solidify an already solid line that also features tackle Max Silver and end McCarthy.
Linebackers Fitzsimmons, Wyatt Benson and Shomari Watts (who also starts at center) are capable run-stoppers and Chris Ambrogi is a seasoned safety for Murphy's defensive backfield. "Top to bottom, this is the most experience we've ever brought back in my four years here," Murphy said.
And the Fords' long days and sleepless nights at football camp could tie everything together.
Fords at a Glance
2007 RECORD: 4-7 overall (1-4, Inter-Academic League).
HEAD COACH: Michael Murphy (Fourth season: 8-24).
STAFF: Brian Martin, Don Richardson, Joe Nassib, Todd Wolov, Isaac Bailey, Jay Wright, Tom Trocano, Matt Conboy, Zach Mills.
KEY RETURNEES: Dan Judge (QB) 6-2, 190; Kevin Eberly (RB) 6-0, 170; Chris Ambrogi (S-WR) 5-10, 185; Shomari Watts (C-LB) 6-1, 215; Terance Fitzsimmons (OLB-TB) 5-10, 190; AJ Jones (WR-OLB) 6-2, 215; Joe Nassib (WR-DB) 5-8, 165; Joe McCarthy (TE-DE) 6-0, 190; Wyatt Benson (MLB) 6-1, 215; Bill Annesley (DB-WR) 5-10, 180.
TOP NEWCOMERS: Rob Boyle (OT-DE) 6-4, 230; Carl Walrath (OLB-WR) 5-10, 180; Max Silver (DT-OL) 6-3, 220; Stephen Aitken (OT-DE) 6-3, 220; Brendan McGrath (WR) 6-2, 180.
OUTLOOK: The Fords return 15 of their starters from a year ago, which could bode well for a team that has not finished outside of the league standing's bottom two spots since 2001.
NOTABLE: It's a family affair in the Haverford School's season opener at Radnor. The Fords' sophomore wide receiver Brendan McGrath will face his older brother, senior offensive lineman Ryan, and the Red Raiders Friday night.